No punishment for 11/26 terrorists

By Samuel Baid

November 18: For 14 years, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) showed no courage to compel Pakistan to punish the men of its armed forces and non-state actors who planned and executed the terrorist operation in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. The attack killed at least 166 people, including Indians, Israelis and Americans, in addition to destroying property worth millions of rupees. It is insane how the world’s greatest powers in the UNSC fail to pressure a country, which is often on their doorstep with a begging bowl, to help eliminate terrorism by punishing those who have made it a lucrative profession in the name of Islam.

At a special UNSC meeting on counter-terrorism held in Mumbai last month, Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar criticized members for failing to act against the main plotters of 26/11 due to political considerations. This was a clear indication of China’s defense of Pakistani terrorists who are mainly against India.

It is a political consideration which is obviously not felt by the members of the UNSC. It is also for political and economic reasons that Pakistan does not hold it against China for equating Islam with terrorism or its efforts to de-Islamize. China has blocked a proposed UN ban on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Sajjid Mir, who was giving instructions from Pakistan via mobile phone about who should be shot.

India’s problem with Pakistan is that terrorist acts like the one on November 26, 2008 are planned and staged by the armed forces with the help of non-state actors, but the defense of this terror must be done by a powerless and distraught civilian government as instigated behind the scenes by the bosses of the armed forces. The terror of 26/11 occurred when the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had just seized power and was enthusiastic about normalizing relations with India. The wish for normalization ended here.

That the normalization of relations with India is a poison for the Pakistani armed forces which, because of their distrust of politicians, will not allow democracy to take root in the country, does not need to be emphasized. They find terrorism to be the most effective weapon to keep their distance from India while making the civilian government repeat to the world that Pakistan is a peace-loving country and itself a victim of terrorism.

Certainly, Pakistan is a victim of terrorism. But what terrorism? It is not external terrorism like Pakistan is inflicting on India and even Iran. Pakistan suffers from terrorism which it designs for foreign and domestic targets. During the time of General Ziaul Haq, terrorist acts in the country were complicit like Jihad for Kashmir. But sensible people felt that these terrorists would eventually retreat from the country. It turned out very correct. But the army, represented by General Zia, did not bother. On the contrary, General Zia created an anti-Shiite organization called Sipah-i-Sahaba. The organization killed Shias and stirred up anti-Iranian feelings in Pakistan. Worse still, Zia made changes and additions to school textbooks to indoctrinate young minds into adopting a jihadist mindset. After the shooting of children at the Army Public School in Peshawar by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the then Nawaz Sharif government tried to change the school curriculum, but was rejected by the mullahs.

So Pakistan is producing thousands of young people who are eager to give their lives in what their masters tell them is jihad. But it is not only former students of madrasas or public schools who are being brainwashed. A research article in Newsline (Karachi) from August 2010 writes,

“More young people, especially among relatively affluent segments of society, are embracing greater religious identity and the conservatism associated with it.”

This makes Pakistan an ideal country for global terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In fact, as Pakistani journalist Salim Shahzad reported in September 2014, Al-Qaeda has great influence in the Pakistani Armed Forces. Salim lost his life for this revelation. He was beaten and drowned by ISI men.

Khaled Ahmed, a Pakistani authority on the armed forces’ links with non-state actors, quotes Salim in his book “Sleepwalking to Surrender: Dealing with Terrorism In Pakistan” (Penguin 2016) to say that Al-Qaeda had perpetrated the 26/ 11 Attack on Mumbai with the help of Pakistani radicals including Ajmal Kasab and David Headley. Headley was a Pakistani Muslim who moved to the United States with an English name to fool people.

His real name was Daud Gilani. His and Kasab’s confessions pointed to the role of Pakistani armed forces in the Mumbai carnage.

Pakistan has so far ignored the UNSC order to punish the culprits of 11/26. He also ignored all the evidence that India provided to him. How can Pakistan punish those who have accomplished the mission assigned to it? Before his ousting in 2017, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif loudly protested why these culprits were not being punished? Dawn reported it. The journalist was immediately put on the exit checklist as punishment and the prime minister was widely denounced as a traitor. When India caught Kasab shooting at people during the Mumbai carnage, Pakistan immediately disowned him as it disowned its dead soldiers in Kargil. But Sharif insisted he was a Pakistani from South Punjab.

The Pakistani army would like its terrorists to be called mujahideen. About a year and a half ago, the former Pakistani army chief and president, General Pervez Musharraf, told an Indian Hindi channel that Hafiz Saeed might be a terrorist for you, but for us, he is a mujahid,” he said in response to a question “when will Pakistan hand over Saeed to India for his role in the Mumbai carnage?”

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